Football is a part of the fabric of Western Pennsylvania and has been for generations. Now there's a program to recognize that, in a quite literal sense.
It's called Back to Football Friday.
During a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, United Way President Bob Nelkin and Steelers President Art Rooney II encouraged local students and fans to celebrate the opening weekend of the 2010 NFL season by cloaking themselves in back-and-gold fabric, the team's colors, for school and work on one of two Fridays – Sept. 10 or Sept. 17.
The schools participating in the Back to Football Friday program will be entered into a contest where each winner receives a $10,000 grant for fitness equipment from NFL Play 60 as well as a visit from a player this fall.
"We have a great tradition in Pittsburgh of the Friday before a Steelers home game people where wear black-and-gold, they wear their jerseys to work, many kids are allowed to wear their colors to school," said Rooney. "This year the NFL is sponsoring a program where many schools can enter a contest to win an NFL Play 60 grant to support athletic equipment one of in the school district. A number of great programs are going to help generate the enthusiasm that we know comes naturally in Pittsburgh. We're looking forward to it."
Schools in the program will be asked to submit photos of the Back to Football Friday event and answer brief essay questions for the chance to win. Thirty-four winners will be chosen, one in each NFL market plus two at-large winners.
"It's my favorite time of the year when we go back to football season," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "We know the high school and college season began this past weekend, and now we get ready for the real deal and the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're excited about this week. We are excited about Friday."
Mr. Ravenstahl said he will name Friday, Sept. 10 as Back to Football Friday in the city, Allegheny County and surrounding region, and he also encouraged all residents to wear black-and-gold.
"We want to make sure we let everybody know the Steelers season is back, and we are proud of our organization," said Mr Ravenstahl. "I want to thank Art and the Steelers for all they do in the community. They are Pittsburgh. They are what this organization is all about, and we want to thank them for continuing to be great Pittsburghers. Let's do it on Friday and show everybody we are ready for a successful 2010 season, and we are excited about it."
Designed to tackle childhood obesity, NFL PLAY 60 brings together the NFL's long-standing commitment to health and fitness with partner organizations like United Way. Since the program was launched in 2007, the NFL has committed more than $200 million to youth health and fitness through programming, grants and media time for PSAs.
Companies can register to take part at United Way's special Back to Football website, www.UnitedWay.org/BackToFootball. Schools interested in entering the Back to Football Friday contest can sign up at www.NFLRUSH.com/BackToFootball.